How to Stay Happy, Healthy and Stress-Free This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for joy, togetherness, and celebration – but also stress. Despite the festive, happy images we are bombarded with in the media, many people find the holidays a difficult time. Financial pressures, loneliness, shorter and darker days (yes, even for me in California) are just some of the factors that contribute to a rise in depression and anxiety during the holidays. Plus, this year may be particularly challenging as we continue to wrestle with the stresses of the pandemic. To make matters worse, those negative feelings are often exacerbated by the unhealthy habits so common during the holidays, like increased alcohol consumption, poor food choices, and overscheduling.

Make this Holiday Season Different

Start taking steps now to prevent holiday stress by prioritizing your health and well-being. Eating well, enjoying the company of friends and loved ones, and practicing self-care strategies that work for you can all help bring the holiday season back to its true meaning: a time of joy.

Here are some of my top strategies to enjoy a happy, healthy and stress-free holiday season this year:

1 – Delegate and be selective with activities.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to do everything on your own for a picture-perfect holiday season. Letting go of that expectation can actually lead to greater enjoyment and less stress, so don’t be afraid to ask others to contribute to big meals, encourage a healthy potluck style dinner or turn down a social invitation that doesn’t excite you. Setting healthy boundaries with your time and energy is important!

2 – Shop wisely.

Financial pressure is one of the top stressors at this time of year. Making a budget at the onset can help keep spending in check. Always remember that personal, meaningful gifts don’t have to be pricey – and are often more appreciated!

With supply chain difficulties and many shortages of goods predicted for this winter, shopping locally, or shopping online from local small business owners either directly or on Etsy, can also alleviate stress. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of supporting a small business owner. 

Here are a few of my (previously) local shops to check out:

Plum Island Soap Co.

BC Essentials

White Heron Tea Co.

And a few of my (newly) local shops:

Laura Ann Designs Jewelry

East Bay Herbals

Il Fiorello Olive Oil Co.

3 – Stick to your sleep schedule.

The relationship between stress and sleep goes two ways. When you’re stressed, it’s more difficult to sleep, and when you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to feel stressed. When we’re staying up later or missing sleep, we are not at our best – studies show it takes up to four days to recover from just one hour of missed sleep! Practice good sleep hygiene, including keeping regular hours, staying away from screens before bedtime, sleeping in a cooler room and limiting alcohol consumption to at least 2 hours before heading to bed.

4 – Build movement into your schedule.

Exercise is a proven way to reduce the harmful effects of stress on your body, but when you’re busy and stressed, it can be hard to fit it in. If exercise is part of your daily routine, don’t let the busy-ness of the holiday season get in the way!

Consciously blocking out time for fitness regardless of what you have to do that day, and prioritizing that time helps. So does combining movement with holiday social events, whether that means going for a walk together, planning a snowshoe party, or heading to a skating rink.

5 – Include nutrient dense foods and practice mindful eating.

It’s not surprising that studies find that many adults gain weight over the holidays, but you might be surprised to learn that even adults who plan to lose weight often end up gaining instead. Keep your expectations realistic and focus on eating mindfully, enjoying everything in moderation. Here are some tips for eating more mindfully:

  • People often skip meals over the holidays, thinking that they’re compensating for indulging later, however, they end up eating more during their holiday events. A better strategy is to have healthy, satisfying food with plenty of protein, healthy fats and fiber before an event to stay on a regular eating schedule and prevent over-indulging. In other words, eat and apple in the car when you are on your way to a party!
  • Throughout your meals, allow time between bites so your brain can more accurately measure when you’re full.
  • When you are faced with a lot of treats, retain a mindful approach. Choose the treats you really enjoy, and savor them slowly.

Making smart food choices during the holiday season with plenty of nutrient-dense foods can also support your immune system to help prevent illness (and nobody wants to be sick right now!) Fresh produce, particularly brightly colored vegetables and citrus fruits, are high in vitamin C, which supports immunity. And foods high in antioxidants reduce inflammation – focus on herbal teas, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.

6 – Don’t forget to take care of your gut health.

The stress, potential depression, and sugary diets that many people face at this time of the year create an unfortunate trifecta leading to poor gut health. To protect your gut microbiome, focus on a wide variety of natural foods high in fiber. Bitter winter lettuces, like radicchio, have higher levels of pre-biotics than some other greens. That’s why I include radicchio in my Hormone Health Grocery Guide’s Winter Salad.

7 – Limit alcohol.

Another factor affecting gut health and immune health is alcohol. Studies show that alcohol consumption doubles during the holidays. Bear in mind that binge drinking carries many health risks, even if you’re not a heavy drinker over the rest of the year. Plus, excess alcohol consumption can sap your energy, contribute to depression, worsen PMS and cause more period cramps. Raise a glass for special occasions, but be mindful of what you drink.

Kombucha, mocktails and sparkling water with fruit are excellent festive substitutes. My favorite is a splash of pomegranate juice and fresh lime with sparkling water – at least it has the color of red wine!

8 – Practice gratitude and focus on the good.

Sometimes, we all need to slow down and recognize the good in our lives. Practicing gratitude is a proven way to improve your mental well-being, and can be as easy as taking a moment to thank people for simple acts. Some studies have connected a “gratitude journal,” in which participants recorded the things they were grateful for, with improved mental health and reduced depression. As this becomes a habit, you’ll start to notice the good around you more often, in essence shifting the way you view the world for the better.

My go-to gratitude journal is the 5 Minute Journal by Intelligent Change, which coincidentally, makes a great gift!

Make this holiday season the best ever – we all deserve it!

Reach out if you’d like to learn more about creating healthy habits for the holidays and a more balanced 2022.

contact@dramandatracy.com

Sources

Lending Tree, 61% of Americans Are Dreading the Holidays Due to Spending, by Jacqueline Demarco

YouGov, Many Americans are Anticipating a Lonely Holiday Season, .by Jamie Ballard

National Alliance and Mental Illness, Mental Health and Holiday Blues

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Beverage Daily, Americans Double Their Drinking During the Holidays, by Beth Newhart

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Support Your Liver for Better Health, Optimal Hormones and Improved Energy

Your liver is the largest organ in your body, and it plays a vital role in your overall health. Many people assume liver problems only develop in people with alcohol dependencies but the incidence of liver problems like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is rising rapidly, particularly among younger people. Alarmingly, up to 30% of the population in North America and Europe are affected by a fatty liver. It’s important not to neglect your liver health, because it performs many important functions in your body – over 500 bodily processes involve your liver!

Primary Functions of The Liver

Your liver is the largest organ in your body, and it plays a vital role in your overall health. Many people assume liver problems only develop in people with alcohol dependencies but the incidence of liver problems like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is rising rapidly, particularly among younger people. Alarmingly, up to 30% of the population in North America and Europe are affected by a fatty liver. It’s important not to neglect your liver health, because it performs many important functions in your body – over 500 bodily processes involve your liver!

Primary Functions of The Liver

On the surface, the liver’s job sounds straightforward. The digestive system delivers blood to the liver through the portal vein. Once that blood arrives, cells in your liver called hepatocytes act as a filtration system to remove toxins and create energy. The detoxification process helps your body rid itself of harmful substances like excess hormones, harmful food additives, and environmental pollutants. Behind that simple explanation, however, lies a complex network of processes that include:

  • Producing gamma globulin, which is essential for immunity
  • Manufacturing hormones
  • Creating the proteins necessary for blood clotting
  • Producing cholesterol
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Metabolizing carbohydrates, fat, and protein to deliver energy
  • Storing vitamins and minerals, and releasing them as needed
  • Filtering toxins
  • Breaking down waste products and delivering them back to the digestive system for elimination
  • Producing bile to break down fat (hormones)

With so many functions in its wheelhouse, it’s not surprising that liver problems can have a deep impact on your health. One of the most common is NAFLD, in which fatty tissues build up in your liver. Left untreated, this can develop into cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

Warning Signs of a Sluggish Liver

One of the most common and debilitating symptoms of liver problems is overwhelming, unexplained fatigue. One study found that patients with a fatty liver frequently experience extreme fatigue during the day no matter how much they slept the previous night. Pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen is another symptom. Other possible indicators of liver problems include:

  • Swelling in the stomach and legs
  • Mysterious rashes
  • Jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin and the eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Hormonal imbalances leading to problems like severe PMS and low libido

6 Ways to Support Liver Health

The good news is that your liver is amazingly resilient. It’s one of the few organs that can regenerate under the right conditions, so healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way to restoring liver health. Below are some strategies to support your liver.

1.         A liver-friendly diet. Focus on a well-rounded, whole foods diet. The “Mediterranean Diet” with its emphasis on fresh produce, seafood, and healthy fats is often recommended for liver health.

Because of the tight interconnection between your liver and your digestive system, maintaining healthy gut health is important. High-fiber complex carbohydrates like beans and oatmeal have been proven effective in fighting NAFLD, as have leafy green vegetables like spinach.

At the same time, reduce or eliminate processed sugar and white flour intake. These foods not only lead to weight gain, but they can also raise your blood sugar, which taxes your liver. Similarly, choose unsaturated fats like olive oil over saturated fats like butter, as saturated fats increase the amount of fat in your liver.

2.         Exercise. One of the biggest risk factors for NAFLD is being obese, so steps towards weight management are important. Work with a healthcare provider to determine the safest, most sustainable approach for you. A sedentary lifestyle is also linked to a higher prevalence of NAFLD, and it’s important to note that this risk is separate from the obesity risk – even people within a healthy weight range are at risk if they’re not moving enough. Exercise also stimulates another powerful detoxification process: sweating!

3.         Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes While NAFLD is different from liver disease caused by excessive alcohol, it’s still wise to give your liver a break. A liver that is already sluggish is more vulnerable to damage from alcohol than a healthy liver.

4.         Stay hydrated. Water is an important part of the liver’s detoxifying mechanisms, and helps to dissolve fat and fiber.

5.         Supplement wisely. A number of supplements can bolster liver health, including:

  • Turmeric: The curcumin in turmeric has been found to reduce fat in the liver.
  • Garlic: Studies have linked garlic to lower liver fat, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
  • Ginger: The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger reduce inflammation in the liver.
  • Ginseng: Although ginseng has been shown to improve liver function, it can also interact with some medications and damage the liver, so always use under supervision of a healthcare practitioner.
  • Licorice. Chinese medicine has used licorice root to treat liver ailments for centuries.
  • Milk thistle: As a powerful antioxidant, milk thistle may help reduce liver inflammation.     

6.         Detoxify your environment. Pesticides, fungicides, household cleaners, food additives, pollution… your liver faces a lot of toxins every day. Although it’s difficult to eliminate many environmental toxins, try to make conscious choices about the things that you surround yourself with, including toiletries, cleaning products, and household items. That includes things that affect your psychological health – studies have linked excess stress with liver disease.

If you’d like to learn more about protecting your liver for optimal hormone balance, I can help you put together a workable plan!

Dr. Amanda Tracy, ND

Sources

Lonardo A, Nascimbeni F, Maurantonio M, Marrazzo A, Rinaldi L, Adinolfi LE. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Evolving paradigms. World J Gastroenterol. 2017 Sep 28;23(36):6571-6592. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v23.i36.6571. PMID: 29085206; PMCID: PMC5643282

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Bahrami, A., Teymoori, F., Eslamparast, T. et al. Legume intake and risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Indian J Gastroenterol 38, 55–60 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12664-019-00937-8

Anania C, Perla FM, Olivero F, Pacifico L, Chiesa C. Mediterranean diet and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2018;24(19):2083-2094. doi:10.3748/wjg.v24.i19.2083

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Murray MT. Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice). Textbook of Natural Medicine. 2020;641-647.e3. doi:10.1016/B978-0-323-43044-9.00085-6

Start Now to Maintain Brain Health As You Age

We tend not to think very much about our brain when we’re young. That might be a bit of a philosophical conundrum (can a brain think about itself?), but it also can carry unfortunate repercussions down the road. It’s important to build a strong foundation of brain health for better aging, both physically and mentally. As we age, the mind-body connection becomes even more pronounced, and our physical health profoundly impacts our mental health – and vice versa.

Although it’s often taken for granted, your brain plays a vital role in your quality of life. As the command control center of your nervous system, functions regulated by your brain include memory, moods, energy, and mobility. Each of these functions are complex and tightly interconnected. In fact, it’s difficult to define brain health, since so many different processes are involved.

Why is taking care of our brain health so important?

One thing is certain: As we age, risks to brain health increase. One in four adults will experience a stroke in their lifetime, every five years after the age of 65, risk of Alzheimer’s doubles and other neurological conditions go up.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic out of the CDC shows that 77.4 % of adults aged 45 – 65+ with at least 1 chronic disease show significant cognitive decline compared to just 22.6 % with no chronic disease (88.3 % being female).

However, there are many things we can do to protect our brain health. Although there is a genetic risk in Alzheimer’s, deterministic genes (genes that directly cause a disease, as opposed to risk genes which increase the risk) are tied to less than one percent of Alzheimer’s cases. By looking after our physical body before we experience problems, we can reduce our risk.

Let’s take a deep dive into some protective measures we can take for brain health.

Eat for brain health.

A diet high in antioxidants minimizes the oxidative damage that can lead to impaired cognitive functioning, particularly with regards to memory. Foods high in antioxidants include brightly colored produce, spices like turmeric and curry, and many beans. Many foods high in Vitamin C are antioxidants, and studies show a link between low intake of Vitamin C and the development of dementia. As well, choose foods high in omega-3 fatty acids whenever possible. Your brain cells contain the fatty acids DPA and EHA, and diet high in omega-3 fatty acids helps your brain build new cells. Good sources include nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and plant oils like flaxseed oil.

Coffee has also been linked to a reduced risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s, perhaps because of its antioxidant qualities. If you don’t like coffee, green tea may have even stronger brain-health benefits, in part because of its high levels of the amino acid L-theanine, which can trigger a relaxation response in the brain that balances the stimulating effects of caffeine.

To counteract oxidative stress and damage to the brain, avoid excess alcohol, sugar, and processed foods.

Keep your blood sugar in check.

High blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, even if a person doesn’t develop diabetes. You may start to hear Alzheimer’s being referred to as “Type 3 diabetes” more and more as research has shown clear links between insulin dysregulation and cognitive impairment leading to Alzheimer’s disease. A balanced diet, including fats and protein with each meal and eating plenty of fiber can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. My favorite high fiber foods are blackberries, apples and pears.

Control your blood pressure and exercise regularly.

Not only does high blood pressure increase the risk of stroke, it can also impair blood flow to the brain. This can raise the risk of vascular dementia. One study found that a 10-mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure raised the risk of cognitive problems by 9%. One way to improve blood pressure is to maintain a regular exercise routine. Numerous studies show a clear link between even modest exercise and improved metabolism in the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory function as well.

Be cautious with medications.

Certain kinds of commonly prescribed medication can impair brain function, including many medications for anxiety, sleep problems and allergy symptoms. It’s always important to review the side effects of any medications with a healthcare practitioner and discuss alternative treatments.

Keep your brain active.

“Use it or lose it” doesn’t just apply to your physical health. Activities that stimulate your brain and help develop new neural connections include puzzles, vocabulary exercises, crossword puzzles, learning a new language, and listening to (or playing) music.

Physical activities that require some mental concentration have similar benefits. The practice of tai chi has been found to increase brain volume, and dancing improves spatial memory and overall cognitive health – not to mention its numerous social and physical benefits.

Research supplements.

If you can’t get all your nutrients from diet or have trouble with absorption, supplementation of certain brain healthy supplements can be beneficial. Some supplements that are beneficial for brain health include:

  • Fish oil or Flax oil, which contains high levels of Omega-3 fatty acid.
  • B vitamins and folic acid, which help with the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Vitamin D, which is particularly important during the dark winter months. One study found that people with low levels of Vitamin D have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before including any new supplements to see if they are right for you -I would be happy to help!

Attitude is everything.

One of the most important things you can do to protect your brain health is to simply commit to protecting it. Studies show that feeling that you are in control of your own aging process, which includes your brain health, leads to healthier outcomes. One study found that among people with a genetic predisposition to dementia, a positive attitude to aging led to an almost 50% reduction in developing any form of dementia.

Taking steps towards an overall healthier lifestyle and stress management will help you gain that sense of control. Join my upcoming Webinar, How to Stop Stress from Sabotaging your Hormones and Your Holiday Season, to learn more about how you can protect your brain.

Sources

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Levy BR, Slade MD, Pietrzak RH, Ferrucci L (2018) Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene. PLOS ONE 13(2): e0191004.

Why Traditional Tests Don’t Get to the Bottom of Thyroid Troubles

Your thyroid is a small organ with a huge impact on all aspects of your health. Thyroid hormone impacts every cell in your body, so even a small disturbance in thyroid hormone levels affects your digestive tract, brain, heart, metabolism, glucose and cholesterol levels, and much more.

Yet, despite its importance, thyroid problems are one of the most under-diagnosed conditions in the world. As many as 60% of people with thyroid problems aren’t aware. By some estimates, up to one in 10 North Americans have a thyroid problem, and that number rises to one in eight for women. That’s a lot of people experiencing unnecessary health issues!

For many people, thyroid issues are the result of low levels of thyroid hormone, a condition referred to as hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Weight gain
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Always feeling cold
  • Infertility
  • Dry skin

To further complicate matters, many thyroid treatments fall spectacularly short when it comes to improving a patient’s quality of life. At the root of the problem lie inadequate diagnostic tools. Traditionally, conventional medical practitioners run two tests for thyroid hormone levels: one for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and one for the hormone thyroxine (T4). Then they place patients on thyroid hormones or iodine in hopes of restoring balance. In effect, this is a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

By prescribing thyroid hormone without a full investigation, medical practitioners may run the risk of harming their patients’ health. Growing evidence suggests thyroid hormone is over-prescribed, and may even increase a patient’s risk of mortality.

When blood tests show a dip in thyroid hormone levels, thyroid hormone replacement therapy drugs such as levothyroxine, are very commonly prescribed.

Those that have clear low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) benefit from this medical treatment, however the problem may lie in those who may have only a few, mild symptoms of hypothyroidism and come back with borderline test results, known as subclinical hypothyroidism, and older adults in particular.

Studies show those aged 65 and over who have been given thyroid replacement therapy have an increased risk of death. Due to the many hormonal changes that naturally begin to occur in older adults such as sleep changes and increased inflammation, natural dips in thyroid levels may occur. Thyroid replacement medication in these cases may not be necessary and if taken may be causing an override of said changes, therefore causing further complications.

Why traditional approaches fall short.

Focusing solely on levels of TSH and T4, and then applying a quick fix, ignores the fact that the most common cause of hypothyroidism is actually an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. When someone experiences Hashimoto’s, their white blood cells and antibodies erroneously attack the thyroid, leading to a reduction in thyroid hormone secretion.

We haven’t yet determined the cause of autoimmune diseases, although evidence suggests genetic factors, inflammation, certain medications, and stress can all contribute. As well, studies have found possible connections between “leaky gut” syndrome, or increased permeability, and the autoimmune system.

Because of the vague causes for autoimmune disorders, traditional medicine tends to treat just the symptoms, without taking a holistic approach to address overall health. This is particularly true for Hashimoto’s, which is problematic. Without proper treatment, the immune system will continue to attack the thyroid gland, making it increasingly difficult to treat without addressing the autoimmune response.

The problem with traditional lab tests.

As you can see, thyroid problems and treatments are more complex than simply trying to fix a shortage of hormones as determined from testing TSH and T4. For better results, and a more holistic treatment plan, patients need more comprehensive assessments. Below are five causes of thyroid problems that won’t be detected by standard tests.

Pituitary problems.

The production of thyroid hormone is controlled by a gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland, which releases TSH. Elevated cortisol levels can damage the pituitary gland, which in turn reduces the amount of TSH, and consequently the amount of thyroid hormone.

Inefficient conversion of T4 to T3.

In order to be used by your body, T4 must be converted to another hormone, triiodothyronine, more commonly called T3. If this process doesn’t run smoothly, your body won’t have its optimum amount of T3, even if your T4 test results look good. An excess of the stress hormone cortisol in your body can impact this process.

High TBG levels.

Thyroid hormone travels through the bloodstream thanks to a protein called thyroid binding globulin (TBG). High TBG levels can lower the amount of active thyroid hormone, since it is inactive when bound to TBG. Excess estrogen can result in elevated TBG levels, which can lead to hypothyroidism, even if the results of the traditional tests are within normal range.

Low TBG levels.

Paradoxically, low TBG levels can also lead to hypothyroidism. That’s because low levels result in an excess of free thyroid hormone in the blood, which causes cells to develop resistance. The result is hypothyroidism, since although there is enough thyroid hormone in the blood, the body’s cells aren’t receptive to it. Common causes of low TBG levels include high testosterone levels and insulin resistance.

Thyroid resistance.

The receptors in your cells can be damaged by high levels of T4 or T3, or high levels of cortisol. As well, chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is also harmful.

Optimum thyroid performance depends on a tightly woven interplay of processes, and, as shown above, just one imbalance can throw the whole thing off.

Traditional tests aren’t always going to recognize the various factors that contribute to thyroid problems. If you want to take a deeper dive into your thyroid health, give me a call!

Sources

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Top 10 Signs of Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones affect every aspect of your wellbeing, from your appetite to your zest for life. Despite their large impact on overall health, hormonal imbalances can be frustratingly difficult to recognize. That’s partly because our hormones must maintain a delicate balance and even a slight shift can have negative repercussions.

Key Players in Hormone Balance

Think of your hormones as messengers delivering instructions to the rest of your body in order to regulate many things, including mood, appetite, stress levels, metabolism, sleep, sexual functions, blood sugar and more!

Many organs are involved in maintaining hormone balance. The hypothalamus, a small region in your brain, sends signals to your endocrine system, which controls the secretion of hormones. The endocrine system contains the adrenals, hypothalamus, ovaries, testes, parathyroid, pineal and pituitary glands.

When these glands receive a signal from the hypothalamus, they react by releasing hormones. For example, if your brain perceives a threat, your hypothalamus tells your adrenal and pituitary glands to secrete the “stress hormones” adrenaline and cortisol. This dynamic is sometimes called the HPA axis and it has far-reaching effects on your body. Those hormones tell your heart to speed up, your muscles to tense, your breathing to quicken, and your liver to release more glucose for extra energy. Those responses likely served us well way back in history, when we were more likely to be under an actual attack, because they primed our “flight or fight” response. Today, however, stress is often more chronic, and we’re not typically able to flee or fight the stressors. Instead, the long-term effects continue to take a toll.

Who Is at Risk and Why?

We all experience some hormonal imbalances over the course of a lifetime, but certain developmental stages raise the risk. Puberty is one obvious stage when hormones are sometimes wildly out of balance because the ovaries and testes receive signals to start producing more hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone. Middle age ushers in a new era of hormonal changes. For women, the production of estrogen starts to slow with the transition to menopause. For many women, however, this isn’t a smooth decrease in hormone production, but rather, something that occurs in fits and starts, which can make symptoms harder to manage.

Men aren’t immune from midlife hormone imbalances. Around the age of 40, men’s level of androgens (“male” hormones like testosterone) starts to decline by about one percent a year.

Outside of age-related hormonal changes, other factors can lead to hormone imbalance, including stress, disordered eating, nutritional deficiencies, medication, exposure to toxins, birth control pills, and many medical conditions.


Top 10 Signs of Hormone Imbalance

1- Bad PMS

Wild mood swings. Unexplained sadness. Disabling irritability. Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, isn’t much fun, and hormones are to blame. PMS is caused by the drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle. Low estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to a decrease in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mood stabilization.

2 – Mood swings

Many hormones influence our moods, including norepinephrine and epinephrine, testosterone, and oxytocin, so it is not surprising that fluctuating hormones can lead to an emotional rollercoaster, for all genders.

3 – Fatigue

Hormones play an important role in energy levels, so an imbalance often leads to unexplained fatigue. A decrease in thyroid hormone in particular can lead to extreme tiredness. And decreases in another hormone, progesterone, can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

4 – Low sex drive

Lower levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men often lead to a loss of libido.

5 – Irregular periods

Low levels of estrogen and difficulties with thyroid hormone levels can lead to periods that don’t follow a regular 28-day cycle. As women enter the perimenopause stage, this often becomes more pronounced, and the timing of their periods becomes difficult to predict.

6 – Weight fluctuations

Anyone who struggles to control their weight, despite conscientious exercise and careful calorie control, should have their hormone levels checked. The impact of hormones on weight is complex, and can involve ghrelin, cortisol, insulin, thyroid hormone, and leptin. Imbalances with just one of these can easily derail weight-control. 

7 – Food cravings

Studies (and plenty of anecdotal evidence) suggest that hormonal fluctuations, particularly those tied to the menstrual cycle, lead to cravings for sweet and high-carb foods. Stress hormones can also play a role, as they send signals to your body that it needs more energy to fight the perceived stress. The “pleasure” hormones like dopamine can also contribute, as your body seeks to repeat the temporary feelings of satisfaction from eating certain foods.

8 – Brain fog

That feeling of not being able to think clearly can be influenced by many hormones, including cortisol, insulin, estrogen and testosterone.

9 – Headaches

For women, low levels of estrogen can lead to an increase in headaches. Imbalances in other hormones, such as cortisol and thyroid hormone, can also contribute.

10 – Sleep problems

Disruptions in levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin lead to issues with your circadian rhythm, but other hormones also play a role in a good night of sleep.


Restoring Balance

As you can see from the above list, hormonal imbalances can lead to many health issues. It’s important to note their connectivity: Hormones influence each other in a complex chain. For example, a disruption in melatonin levels can lead to less sleep. In turn, not getting enough sleep can inhibit testosterone production, even in young men. It’s all connected!

These intertwined relationships point to the importance of taking a holistic approach to hormonal balance. Here are just some proven strategies that I use in my practice (and in my life):

Maintain a healthy body weight.

Yes, this can feel like a Catch-22 when your hormones aren’t cooperating. Focus on whole, natural foods, centered around organic produce and high-quality protein sources, healthy fats, and whole grains. Avoid drastically reducing calories, as that can be counterproductive. Eliminate (or reduce) alcohol, caffeine and processed foods.

Practice stress reduction.

Stress reduction helps stabilize hormones by minimizing the flight or fight response and its impact on hormones. Studies point to the success of meditation and other stress-reduction activities such as yoga or tai chi.

Incorporate exercise into your life.

Even simple walking can regulate hormone levels. Work with a knowledgeable professional to figure out what’s the best approach for you. 

Minimize the use of hormone disruptors.

We’re growing increasingly aware of the impact of certain chemicals on our hormones. Some chemicals, for example, “mimic” certain hormones, which confuses the body’s response. Others change the way we process hormones, or change our sensitivity to them. These chemicals can be found in pesticides, many kinds of packaging, household cleaners, cosmetics and toiletry items, and more. It all points to the importance of becoming an informed consumer.

Investigate natural supplements.

More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of natural supplements to balance hormones, but historically, people have turned to supplements such as ginseng, black cohosh, evening primrose oil, and red clover. 

Get tested and get balanced.

Your hormones have a profound impact on your health. Maintaining balanced hormone levels is one of the most important things you can do to enjoy a healthy life. If you’d like more information on testing and a tailored health plan to gain control of your hormones, reach out to me -I can help!


Book your appointment today to get started! New patients can book a FREE Meet & Greet with me HERE and existing patients can book a consultation with me HERE.